Reimagine Your Hotel F&B Operations with the Right Technology

By Larry Steinberg, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Agilysys
Five Software Solutions to Consider When Planning Restaurant Upgrades

Food and beverage sales represent a huge source of revenue for full-service resorts and hotels. As a result, many properties spend a great deal of time and money refining food preparation techniques, menu selection, and even restaurant decor. Yet, these same hotels often ignore the area that can have the biggest bottom-line impact on F&B delivery - technology. Today's best-in-class F&B software systems address every aspect of operations - from online reservations and mobile ordering, to point-of-sale and payment. So, whether you're a small boutique hotel or a large resort property, consider these five technology solutions when planning your restaurant upgrades.

The right software systems can, quite literally, transform your hotel's food and beverage operation - helping you cut costs, streamline efficiency, increase revenue and enhance guest service. Outdated and underperforming solutions, on the other hand, create inefficiencies, place extra stress on staff, and can even make your property vulnerable to security risks.

Today's best-in-class F&B software systems address every aspect of operations - from online reservations and mobile ordering, to point-of-sale and payment. So, whether you're a small boutique hotel or a large resort property, consider these five technology solutions when planning your restaurant upgrades.

1. Driving Performance Improvements With Flexible Point-Of-Sale
Over the last few years, point-of-sale technology has advanced from a basic, no-frills ordering and payment processing platform to the centerpiece of daily F&B management. In fact, today's POS systems can have a dramatic impact on your business with their ability to streamline operations, drive business improvements, enable strategic decision-making and enhance guest service.
Mobile point-of-sale, in particular, has transformed restaurant operations by allowing servers to work in a wide variety of settings, such as pool cabanas, beverage carts, check-in queues, casino floors, and spa treatment rooms. And, because servers place orders from a tablet device rather than from a stationary terminal, they can spend more time interacting with guests. The result is a faster turnaround in order fulfillment, an upsurge in order amounts, an increase in table turns, and heightened guest satisfaction.
Next-generation POS systems also address the growing requirement for food and beverage operations to leverage data as one of their most important assets. With on-demand business intelligence information, managers can identify key performance metrics - such as sales trends, table turns, server performance and product mix - and act on the insights to boost profitability and optimize operations.
At the same time, POS reports are becoming increasingly comprehensive, intuitive and visually compelling. Many systems come equipped with a variety of standard dashboards that address every aspect of operational and financial management, such as sales, labor and inventory control. Some systems even include notification features, so that managers are alerted, for example, when inventory is running low or when high-cost food items are unaccounted for, indicating the possibility of theft. POS data intelligence is key to remaining competitive and driving continuous performance improvements.
2. Reducing Costs with Automated Inventory and Procurement
One of the most effective ways to conserve resources and cut costs in the F&B area is to automate inventory and procurement. Automated solutions deliver big savings over manual systems - from lower administrative costs and reduced spoilage to shortened procurement and fulfillment cycles.
Features like an automated bid system drive down costs by allowing F&B procurement staff to increase the number of potential vendors and identify preferred suppliers. And, as global sourcing becomes more commonplace, an automated system enables food and beverage procurement staff to tap into a worldwide market and negotiate more effectively with additional suppliers. Purchasing staff can also build their own electronic catalogs that include only those items they are interested in ordering, allowing them to comparison shop and save money in the process.
Yet another benefit of automated inventory and procurement is increased accuracy. Clerical errors are dramatically reduced because staff no longer re-enters data from paper documents. Automated solutions also link usage to demand, so F&B operations can maintain up-to-the-minute inventory counts and identify the best and worst performing menu items.
An automated inventory and procurement system also saves time by streamlining purchasing and inventory control. Tasks that once took hours can be performed with a few clicks of a mouse, and staff no longer wastes time matching receipts with deliveries or figuring out overly complex invoices. An automated system that includes bar coding enables even faster and more reliable F&B inventory management.
3. Creating Loyalty with a Reservation, Table And Wait List Management System
A comprehensive reservation, table and wait list management solution streamlines the entire guest experience and provides the restaurant with opportunities to maximize profitability and build customer loyalty.
It begins with reservations. With a growing number of prospective guests using technology to make restaurant reservations, an online interactive reservation system is critical to increasing your bookings. Next-generation solutions incorporate an in-house client application that allows diners to reserve not only dates and times but also preferred servers and tables. These systems typically include automated wait list management to ensure accurate wait time estimates and easy notifications of seating availability.
Today's best-in-class reservation, table and wait list management systems strengthen operational performance by allowing restaurant managers to control table inventory, private dining and special events with a single intuitive interface. More importantly, these systems enable hosts and servers to leverage guest data - such as server preferences and purchasing history -- to create highly customized dining experiences. The hotel can also create targeted offers and promotions that incentivize guests to dine at the restaurant during their next visit to your property.
4. Improving Data Security with Comprehensive Payment Technology
The payment industry recently adopted EMV technology to reduce fraud. As a result, restaurants are beginning to update their point-of-sale systems to accept EMV payment processing and meet the compliance requirements that went into effect at the end of 2015. However, EMV is only part of a much larger payment picture.
In order to protect guest data from what is arguably a bigger threat today - large-scale data breaches - restaurants should use PCI-Validated point-to-point encryption (P2PE), which secures card data from the payment device to the gateway. Official PCI validation also means that your POS terminals, servers and network are typically deemed out of PCI scope and are no longer subject to cumbersome and costly PCI-DSS audits.
In addition to EMV and PCI-validated P2PE, state-of-the-art payment technology also offers a Payment Information Proxy (PIP), which secures data arriving via e-commerce interfaces, as well as tokenization, which eliminates storage of sensitive cardholder data. Solutions that incorporate all of these features provide the highest security and reduce the risks to both you and your guests.
5. Capturing Guest Spending Opportunities with Self-Service Kiosks
A recent hospitality survey revealed that 96 percent of adults aged 18-39 favor self-service kiosks for food ordering, making it a valuable adjunct to traditional F&B delivery for hotels that want to increase revenue and enhance guest service.
Particularly well-suited for buffet and 'Grab-N-Go' operations, self-service guest-facing kiosks reduce the time it takes to serve customers, while giving them the freedom to browse menu options whenever it's convenient for them. Kiosk solutions also reduce staff demand, as guests select menu items, process their credit card payments and even print their own receipts using a simple interface.
Kiosks can be placed anywhere on property to capture guest spending opportunities. Next-generation systems include real-time menu updates, kitchen workflow management, upsell functionality, P2PE credit card payment, analytics, digital receipts, loyalty management, and unified reporting between your kiosks and point-of-sale system.

Bottom-Line Benefits
Be sure to include technology when planning your property's restaurant upgrades. With the right systems in place, your hotel food and beverage operations will be well positioned to streamline operational efficiency, identify new revenue opportunities and create memorable dining experiences that keep guests coming back time and time again.

Checklist for Selecting a Technology Vendor
Selecting the right technology partner is essential to success, leading to strategic competitive advantages. Before you sign the dotted line, make sure you have the answers to the following questions:

  • What kind of support does the vendor offer? You should have clear expectations when it comes to training, support and problem resolution. At a minimum, the vendor should offer on-site training, 24/7 support, online troubleshooting, and guaranteed turnaround times for phone calls and emails.
  • Are there hidden expenses? Installation, maintenance, licensing and support fees should be included in the pricing. Also, the solution should come with a warranty that outlines replacement and repair costs over a specific time period.
  • How will updates and upgrades be managed? Whether the solution is on-premise or cloud-based, updates and upgrades should never disrupt your business.
  • What are customers saying? The vendor should have a list of customers who can to speak to the reliability and performance of the solution you're considering. Contact several references to find out how the vendor responds to problems and how they would rate the company's training and support. If possible, visit a site where the software is installed so you can speak with users first-hand and see the solution in action.
  • What is the vendor's reputation? Look into the vendor's background. How long have they been in business? Are they growing or downsizing? Do they have an engineering team focused on solution development? Select a company that has a solid reputation in the hospitality industry. Remember, the vendor you choose today will become your technology partner for many years to come.

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